Intimate Rock Musical Bare, Shedding Light on Equality, Love and Religion, Ends Off-Broadway Run Feb. 3
By Michael Gioia
Bare, the coming-of-age rock musical set in a co-ed Catholic boarding school, plays its final performance Feb. 3 at New World Stages. A cast album for the revised Off-Broadway production is in the works.
At the time of closing, Bare will have played 21 previews and 65 regular performances.
As previously announced, plans are underway for upcoming productions in Korea, Japan, Brazil and Los Angeles.
The musical opened Dec. 9, 2012, to mixed reviews under the direction of Stafford Arima, whose re-imagined Carrie was given an Off-Broadway life last season. Bare was transformed from a sung-through work (an earlier version, billed as a Pop Opera, was seen at the American Theatre of Actors in 2004 and gained a cult following over the years) to a book musical that features music by Damon Intrabartolo, a book and lyrics by Jon Hartmere and additional songs by Hartmere and Lynne Shankel (Altar Boyz, Cry-Baby, Company).
Intrabartolo is not attached to the current Off-Broadway staging, which began previews Nov. 19.
"The biggest change [is] having more space to explore the characters," explained Hartmere as to why the piece was revised. "To know these characters a little bit better… you just need more room — you need more room for book scenes, and I personally just wanted to get under the hood and investigate a little bit further."
Aside from the addition of a fleshed-out libretto, the work — a story of discovery, acceptance and love — features a slew of new songs ("A Million Miles From Heaven," which replaces the show's original opening; the standout duet "You Don't Know"; a comical number entitled "Best Friend"; and the second-act ballad "You're Not Alone," among others), the addition and subtraction of characters central to its core, and a plot twist that involves the use of an iPhone photograph and the spread of information via technology. Read more about the Off-Broadway "revisal" of Bare here.
Joining Taylor Trensch (Wicked) and Jason Hite (Off-Broadway debut), who play Peter and Jason, respectively, as the main students at St. Cecilia's Boarding School are Elizabeth Judd (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) as Ivy, a misunderstood transfer student; Gerard Canonico (Spring Awakening) as Matt, who longs for a steady relationship with Ivy; and Barrett Wilbert Weed (Lysistrata Jones) as Nadia, the group's always-discontented drug dealer who is also the sister of Jason.
New to the plot are the characters of Father Mike, played by Jerold E. Solomon (South Pacific), and Sister Joan, played by Missi Pyle (Boeing-Boeing), who oversee the high school's production of Romeo and Juliet. They replace similar characters from the 2004 staging — the Priest and Sister Chantelle, respectively.
"I was not aware that this show even existed until I got an audition for it," admitted Hite, who stars as Jason, the teenage "golden boy" struggling with his sexual identity. "Stafford is an actor's director. He loves having conversation[s] and building this character — we built it together. And, Jon has written it so beautifully on the page. I think the biggest challenge for me is really getting out of the way of the words. The words say enough… Jon has written [Jason] with this true feeling and soul that is quite heartbreaking to work on."
Unlike Hite, Trensch — whose character mirrors the Juliet to Jason's Romeo — was familiar with the work. "I went to a performing arts high school, so I was surrounded by theatre nerds, and we got our hands on the demo for that original [Off-Broadway] production, so I fell in love with the music back in 2004," he said. "It now is a book musical. We have so much text to work with, and this relationship has just gotten to be such a huge, amazing story."
Rounding out the cast are Casey Garvin (West Side Story national tour) as Zack, Ariana Groover as Vanessa, Sara Kapner (Hollywood Arms) as Madison, Alice Lee (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) as Diane, Justin Gregory Lopez ("Law & Order: SVU") as Beto, Michael Tacconi as Nick and Alex Wyse (Lysistrata Jones) as Alan. Anthony Festa and Megan Lewis (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) are swings.
Emmy Award nominee Travis Wall ("So You Think You Can Dance") provides movement for the piece. He explained that it's "expressive [and] definitely not a dance show… I was one of these characters five years ago, and [I remember] how dark I felt and how much I was trying to just get someone to hear me. I couldn't talk to anybody, and no one would listen to me, and [I was] always reaching out for that person who's not there, so I definitely pulled from that."
Tony Award-winning scenic designer Donyale Werle (Peter and the Starcatcher, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) has painted the world of Bare in over 14,000 four-by-four inch Instagram pictures from the musical's fans as well as the cast and creatives. Other creative team members include costume designer Tristan Raines (Tribes, Murder in the First), Tony Award-winning lighting designer Howell Binkley (Jersey Boys, Memphis) and sound designer Keith Caggiano (Soul of Shaolin).
Here's how producers Randy Taradash, Paul Boskind and Martian Entertainment and Gregory Rae bill Bare: "When your true love is your deepest secret. When your heart is so full that your head clouds. When you've let your self-image be a group project. How much do you share — and with who? Bare is an exhilarating new rock musical that follows a group of teens trying to navigate the tightrope to adulthood over the minefield of high school. Along with their teachers, they will wrestle with issues of identity, sexuality, religion and love. Both deeply moving and heartwarmingly humorous, Bare is for anyone who's ever felt locked out trying to fit in."
Bare had its world premiere at the Hudson Theater in Los Angeles, CA, where it began performances Oct. 14, 2000, and ran through Feb. 25, 2001. Following the Los Angeles production, Bare began its run at the American Theatre of Actors (Chernuchin Theatre) March 25, 2004. It opened April 19, 2004, and played through May 27, 2004. Bare has since had more than 100 productions worldwide.
New World Stages is located at 340 West 50th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue). Tickets for Bare are available at Telecharge.com or by calling (212) 239-6200.
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